Today’s Southern Food Porn


Understanding the food people in North Carolina eat handed down from generation to generation makes sense when you understand a few basic principles

– electricity was not available out in the rural areas and/or there was no money to pay for it
– it is too warm to make ice in the winter and store it until summer, so food has to be eaten right away (or canned) or made so it won’t spoil (ie country ham)
– you had to eat only things you could grow. Trucking food in from far away was out of the question and too expensive – hence hamburgers are topped with cole slaw (cabbage grows well) and not lettuce – the summers are too hot for lettuce, which means a very short season generally requiring starting the plants in a greenhouse and transplanting. While lettuce goes bad in about 2 weeks, cabbage will can last up to 5 months
– southerners will always choose a clearly Southern product over something from the North.

Which brings us to the picture – say you like pancakes or waffles – what syrup do you put on them? Clearly not Vermont maple syrup. The state is too hot for maple trees to survive other than way up in the Western mountains, and the winter there is just too unpredictable. Just in the past few years, one guy is trying to make North Carolina maple syrup – last year he got to total production of 100 gallons.

I was shopping at Walmart [i don’t care so save your emotions on someone else] and noticed the Walmart here is carrying a lot of regional products I never would have seen in Connecticut.

So if you want syrup, what can you grow locally and doesn’t spoil – Alaga syrup hails from Montgomery Alabama. It has two main ingredients – corn syrup and cane sugar syrup. (and water). Sugar cane grows in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. (the name stands for ALabama And GeoegiA)

I haven’t opened it yet – it looks pretty intense.

This entry was posted in Art's Big Adventure, North Carolina. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Today’s Southern Food Porn

  1. HPaws says:

    The Harris and the Teeter in my neighborhood would not carry that. The last 12 months they have made a decided effort to imitate Trader Joe in addition to more organic labeling. Publix is opening a store in Cornelius (20 mi north of you). The Fresh Market has lost it’s luster, the deli and fresh meats seem ok much of the cutesy artesian ‘quality’ products get a lot of dusting. You know the slightly dirty, sandal wearing, greasy haired skin-with-a-sheen recycling beatnik wannabes of the 70s, man, that is what I think of the few times I’ve been in Earth Fare. The mildew smell from the bulk food barrels had me laughing out loud. Whole Foods has both beat by a mile.

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      When did Publix enter the NC market. I seem to remember they were not far north of Florida… wasn’t Winn Dixie the main store in the Carolinas?

    • Art Stone says:

      I’m unimpressed with the Harris Teeter I can walk to out my front door. They want my driver’s license and Date of Birth just to get their phony baloney VIC card. They do the same ploy as one of the CT grocery stores – they’ll take a $1.00 product, then offer a “two for one” special showing the price to be $1.79. Okay, you save $.21, but only if you wanted to buy two.

      I bought some 80/20 hamburger and it was somewhere between tasteless and beginning to spoil. Prices in general are higher than even in Chicago. They were just acquired by Krogers.

      The Walmart is not a Supercenter – it’s a regular Walmart that has maybe 5 aisles of food – they have started carrying some fresh produce, but not fresh meat or baked goods.

      Food Lion has connections with the college I attended. I will probably try it next. Trader Joes I’ve shopped at before (as well as the low end relative Aldi’s) – i went there once in a while for variety. I have zero interest in Whole Foods and their “everything is organic” crap that appeals to the gullible.

  2. haiti222 says:

    Alaga has been stocked here in Detroit at stores frequented by black shoppers, those who most likely have a strong tie to southern cooking up here. I think some Meijer and Walmarts also have it. It is very good. If I couldn’t have Maple Syrup, I would pick it too. They now have a sugar-free version, too.

    • Art Stone says:

      As I was looking around, I started to notice that connection – there is a video of Bill Cosby talking about it that I didn’t look at yet. It looks like Walmarts carry it on a store by store basis – when I did a search on the store in Derby, CT, it only offered me the option of ordering it online by the case.

      I’m enjoying the Bunny rolls 😉 They’re made by Flowers, the company that also makes Sunbeam and Merita. They also bought the rights to most of the Hostess bread lines, but I have yet to see Wonder Bread show up yet. Given the threats from the Hostess Bakery unions, I wouldn’t be shocked if Flowers just kills the hostess brands and distributes their own products made from existing non-union bakeries.

      I didn’t look real hard, but I didn’t see twinkies still at this Walmart. Given how bad they were, I would not be shocked if they go away (or maybe there is a distribution bottleneck)

      • Art Stone says:

        Okay, even though it is 2 AM, I figured it was time to be brave and open the bottle.

        It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I’m not throwing it away… Cane syrup is made by evaporating the water from cane juice and cooking it. It has a very strong molasses taste and tastes a little like honey – the refining process of white sugar separates out the molasses, so cane syrup is not like white sugar dissolved in water.

        Cane Syrup is about 10% molasses, while brown sugar is around 3-7%. I remember my mother would sometimes make syrup by heating water, brown syrup and a bit of government surplus butter. It was a reasonable replacement for the store brands.

        It would not shock me if someone said this was fermented to make cheap untaxed rum 😉

      • Parrott says:

        Dude, they have ‘Bunny’ Buns & Rolls here in Virginia too. Always fresh.
        Back in the summer I stopped once at the Trader Joe’s in Winston Salem. It was a clean store on Stratford Ave. (U.S. 158) kinda hard to get to. But they were busy as crap ! Some guy walking around with a broom handle that has a sign that says ‘ask me’. He was very popular with the girls. I got some ‘Duck-Rabbitt beer, my wife got a chocolate something. Did I mention they were busy?
        Stopped at a Piggly-Wiggly in Beaufort SC last week. It was a smallish store but they had a little bit of everything. Seems they are being bought or that store was being bought by ‘Bi-Lo’ grocery stores. Never heard of them, maybe they are like IGA ?
        It was on the radio there, seems to be a big deal to the locals.
        I just bought some ‘bunny’ hot dog buns at the Piggly, on my way to Hunting Island.

        • CC1s121LrBGT says:

          I remember Piggly-Wiggly….. did you see a Starvin’ Marvin too? 😉

        • Art Stone says:

          Bunny is made by Flowers, the company behind sunbeam and Merita. They’re the ones who bought the rights to most of the hostess bread lines (Wonder bread being the best known). Bread is coming down to Bimbo (owned by Mexicans) and Flowers. Flowers is a Southern company and only in the past few years was starting to go national.

          Piggly Wiggly is more or less a franchise and distribution company. I told my nephew I’m a BiLo person not Harris Teeter. Back in the day, at least in the Freedom Drive store, they had a man dressed up like a cool hand luke state policeman with sun glasses sitting in a chair above the checkout lanes with a shotgun at the ready.

          What they did (but don’t seem to do any more) was they would run low cost specials on deli meats – let’s say they had polish ham for $2.99. They would slice the entire container and put it in a big long tray. You would just say how much you wanted and that was it. I’m squeamish about delis that just constantly put different things on the slicing machines one after the other with minimal effort to keep it clean let alone sanitized.

        • foyle says:

          Duck Rabbit Beer! Oh man Parrott, I have visited the brewery several times. Super nice guys who run the place. They are located in an old factory building in the “post-NAFTA no longer industrial area” of Farmville, NC. They were able to get a nice building there for a song. They even got federal stimulus money to pay for building a tasting room at their brewery (I guess that is a better use for our tax dollars than some of the rat holes that it was wasted on — Solyndra, for example).

    • CC1s121LrBGT says:

      That sugar cane version is a lot healthier for you than the high fructose corn syrup version.

      How far south do maple trees grow? I know apple trees don’t grow south of northern Georgia, although they are working on genetic modifications so that that can.

      • Art Stone says:

        I was looking at a map and maples might just barely survive in the Piedmont area – but it stays too warm in the winter for them to do the “save all the sap underground” routine.

        North Carolina started in the 1970s to promote skiing up in the mountains – it’s an iffy proposition – it’s not reliably below freezing – so people can’t really make reservations months in advance since you never know if it will be 50 degrees in January.

        • Parrott says:

          You can get Genuine West Virginia Maple syrup at the Tamarack in Beckly W.VA, just off the turnpike.
          real good,,, and expensive.
          I have a friend that use to bring me back some maple syrup from New York State, about this time every year. When he goes home to visit family in Seneca Falls. I told him not to buy any now that Cuomo is governor there (again).
          So I just get the West Virginia maple syrup, as long as they keep takin the ‘WIC’ card : ) LOL
          Obo buy my syrup, LOL

  3. haiti222 says:

    Their regular Alaga is both thick and full of molasses (as the saying goes). They acquired the Yellow Label brand which has a lighter, honey-like taste. You can order it on their website, or if you are in Atlanta, ever, one Wal-Mart carries it there.

  4. haiti222 says:

    I’ll bet if you mixed the two, you would come up with a perfect pancake syrup….

    • Art Stone says:

      Either that or spontaneous combustion!

      As you know, molasses is more dense than refined sugar and actually has some nutrients! I don’t think I’m ready yet though for black strap molasses.

      • Nidster says:

        The black strap molasses is a bit too hard core for me. I can still get genuine molasses from a couple of farms and it is wonderful. One farm raises all of the cane they boil down to make their molasses, but it’s expensive, $10 a quart jar. The other farm has other farmers bring in their cane crop, so there is a little bit of mixing going on, but still good stuff at $8 quart.

        I have a truck driving friend who I know from a ‘raise your own tobacco’ blog who claims molasses must be in just about everything, since he claims to deliver it to so many different food producers.

        So, real molasses is very good in, or on, just about anything, think BBQ sauce. And surprisingly, molasses is a good ‘casing’ for tobacco leaf since it adds a caramel flavor, when the leaf is fired. And here is a little known fact, almost all commercial tobacco is ‘cased’ with licorice and cocoa.

Leave a Reply